The Super Bowl draws over 100 million viewers. That viewership includes large number of families and children, but people at the ad agencies have either forgotten that or just don't care, as Common Sense Media found many of the ads are inappropriate for kids, including tweens. What's a parent to do if you don't want your kid being sold a Mercedes by sexy Kate Upton, or watching Tracy Morgan unleash a string of bleeped out expletives?
If you do decide to watch the game and the commercials, I think parents need to take a page out of the ad agency approach and use similar tactics to promote their family values. Be the best ad exec you can be for your family values!
- Make your message clear. We've all seen television commercials that are funny, but we don't really know what they're selling. Not effective, right? Same goes for your values as a parent - make sure your child knows what you're "selling." Clearly state your feelings to your kids. If an ad is inappropriate, tell your child(ren) how you feel and why. Playing the commercial rating game from yesterday's post where you score commercials on a scale of 1-10, this is a great way to express your displeasure. Explain that you deduct points for too much skin, or profanity (even if it is bleeped out), or disrespecting women. Give points to the unoffensive ads, such as last year's mini-Darth Vader. While some kids may be too young for the ads and turning off the tv is the best option, with tweens this is a great conversation opportunity. Don't think the kids on the bus won't be discussing the ads, or watching them on their smart phones, on Monday. Make your child's first conversation about the ad with you.
- Repeat your views often. Old ad trick. Say it once, and it's easily forgotten. Repeat it, and there's more chance of the message sticking. You don't want to sound like a broken record and sometimes you'd rather not have this discussion at all (Lord knows I understand that), but you want your kid to know your family's values, what is acceptable and what is not. My theory: the more tweens hear your voice and beliefs in person, the more likely you are to be that voice in their head when you are NOT there.
- Throw out a teaser. That sexy Kate Upton ad has had millions of views, days before the Super Bowl. That's because the car company put out a "teaser" to give consumers a taste of what's to come. Do the same thing with your Super Bowl-viewing kids. Explain to them before the game that you do not expect to approve of all the ads. Talk about what ads are currently on that are okay and not okay.
- Inform. The point of ads is to give you information about a product, right? (And make you want to buy it, of course.) Talk to your child about the cost of these ads (upward of $4 million). Talk about persuasion, why the advertisers use celebrities, ways they manipulate the consumer. Your tween doesn't like to be played, right? And are any of the ad reality-based? Probably not: Kate Upton will most likely not supervise the washing of your vehicle, even if you purchase a Mercedes. Talk about "target audiences" and let your kids know that they are not the intended receivers of some ads. Review that most of the viewers are adults who can responsibly consumer an alcoholic beverage or two during a Super Bowl Party, and hence the beer ads.
Common Sense Media offers some additional tips and tactics for parents here.
And Beyonce, I'm counting on you for a great, wardrobe-malfunction-free halftime show. Talking about ads is enough, I don't want to have to go there. Here's hoping that there are funny, inoffensive ads that entertain as well as sell.
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